Sisters Elaine and Jeanne Heaston have lived in a large, brick home on Hanscom Boulevard since 1955.
“It’s a good party house,” said Jeanne Heaston. She quickly corrected herself, noting not “wild and crazy” parties. “It’s a very gracious house, it’s comfortable.” Eight children grew up in the home; most now live out of town and they stay in the home when they come back for visits. Their mother, Eleanor, lived in the home until 2010, when she passed away at age 97.
The Heastons and eight other homeowners, along with two churches are graciously opening their doors on Sunday, October 4 for Restoration Exchange Omaha’s fall neighborhood tour, this year featuring the Hanscom Park neighborhood. Hours are noon to 5 p.m.
The Heaston home, at 2202 Hanscom Blvd., was designed by acclaimed architect John McDonald. There have been a few modifications over the years, but Heaston describes the house as “classic” and “solid.” “I know it’s not going to fall down in 25 years.”
The Heaston sisters have hired professionals for most of the updates, though they have done some painting. They’ll be touching up a few areas prior to the tour and are even employing their cousins to help clean up the yard.
The homes being showcased on the Hanscom Park tour are a mix of century-old classic homes and mid-century modern structures. The park that anchors the neighborhood at 32nd and Ed Creighton Avenues is Omaha’s oldest existing city park. The city began developing the park in the 1890s, about 20 years after real estate developers Andrew Hanscom and James Megeath donated the 58-acre plot to the city. The neighborhood itself began to develop a little later, after noted landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland was commissioned to design a comprehensive park and boulevard system for the city, including Hanscom Boulevard, originally Central Boulevard.
This neighborhood was initially settled by Irish, Polish and Czech families beginning in the early 1900s. Hispanics families have become an integral part of the neighborhood since the 1980s. The Hanscom Park Neighborhood Association is bounded on the north by Center Street, on the east by I-480, on the west by 42nd Street and on the south by I-80. Many homes in the western part of the neighborhood were built in the 1950s. A 45-acre section from Center to Martha and 38th to 40th Streets was the site of the Harrison Heights golf course from the late 1920s until 1948.
Other sites on the Hanscom Park neighborhood tour are:
3801 Frances Street – Ruben and Taylor Gomez, the third and current owners of this mid-century home, admired it when they lived across the street in a duplex. They tracked down the owner and purchased the home as well as some of its unique 1950s furniture. They have worked hard to maintain the original state of the home.
2101 S. 38th St. – This raised ranch was once home to noted bookmaker and gambler Anthony Higgins. Current owner Dave Larson has made cosmetic updates since moving here in 1992, though the physical layout has not changed.
3928 Martha St. – This prairie-influenced ranch home was once owned by former U.S. Senator Roman Hruska. Constantine F. “Deano” Meares, who started Deano’s Greek Village at 10th and Farnam in 1966, lived in the home in the 1970s and ‘80s. The home has been extensively remodeled but retains some 1950s touches.
3818 Castelar St. – Owners since 2000, Dave and Cindy Johnson learned that the second floor of their 1900-built home had been added on sometime after the 1920s. An elderly woman whose grandmother lived in the home revealed that and other house history during a visit in 2014. The Johnsons have replaced the wood floors and refinished doors and woodwork.
2324 S. 35th St. – This one-and-a-half-story bungalow, built in 1910, was once owned by Fritz Johnson, a hog buyer for Cudahy Packing Co. It was completely remodeled in 2006 and features light interior colors and dark-stained wood floors.
2330 S. 32nd Ave. – This American foursquare built at the turn of the twentieth century was home to Bertha E. Meyer, who was instrumental in starting the women’s division of the Chamber of Commerce in the 1920s. Owners Royce and Karla Gomez have made major upgrades, including a complete electrical and plumbing overhaul, and added granite countertops and new appliances to the kitchen.
2216 Hanscom Blvd. – This American foursquare dates to 1912 and features beamed ceilings and lead-glass bookcases. The kitchen and an upstairs bathroom have been updated. A previous owner, William Argabrite, once drove a stagecoach for Wells Fargo.
1922 S. 33rd St. – This Queen Anne-style home, the oldest structure on the tour, dates to 1891. Current owners Timothy and Barb Fulbright have replicated spindles, sunburst panels, handrails and porch skirts to restore the front porch. Original blueprints of architects Findley and Shields were found in a buffet drawer.
St. Adalbert Church, 2617 S. 31st St. – Czech immigrants petitioned the archbishop for a church to serve their community in 1916. The original building, constructed in 1918 and now vacant, served as both the church and school. Construction began on a new church in 1953; the upper portion was completed in 1960.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church – This church was founded in 1918 to serve the rapidly growing residential area around Hanscom Park. Jacob Nactigall designed the church and adjoining rectory, which were dedicated in 1921. The current school dates to 1954.
The Center Mall, 42nd and Center, is the registration site on the day of the tour. One of Omaha’s first shopping centers, the mall was developed by John Wiebe in 1955 and once housed 45 retail outlets. It is used primarily for office space today. Also on the tour as a drive-by site is the Dehner Boot Company, which has been located at 3614 Martha St. since 1971. The company, which specializes in handmade, custom footwear, produced its first pair of boots in 1875.
Attendees can view inside each of the buildings and talk with the owners of the properties and the people involved in the projects. Each building has been restored, rehabilitated or preserved.
Tickets are $15 each or two for $25. A tour booklet with photographs and extensive home and neighborhood histories is included. Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.restorationexchange.org or the day of the tour on the east side of the Center Mall. A shuttle will be available for ticket holders to ride. An easy bike route has also been mapped out. All proceeds support REO education and advocacy activities.
Restoration Exchange Omaha, formed in 2013 with the merger of Landmarks Inc., Restore Omaha and Omaha Urban Neighborhood, is an organization that teaches and motivates the public to restore and preserve older properties through education, advocacy and invigoration. For questions about the tour, contact Executive Director Kristine Gerber at 402-679-5854 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tour is sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, Omaha Chapter, and the Midtown Neighborhood Alliance.